December 20, 2015

Elections Round 2

The Valley News has my latest reaction to the recent regional elections in France. How about in the New Year we discuss lighter stuff again? Sounds good. Meantime, thanks for reading and enjoy the holidays.

December 16, 2015

Daube of Wild Boar

Two views of the whole shoulder
While I know everyone wants to know my thoughts on the second round of elections...patience is required. Should have something by the end of the weekend. You can read my reaction after the first-round here. And then judge the wisdom and accuracy of my observations.

When you get a phone call asking if you want a shoulder of wild boar, do you really have a choice? The answer pretty much has to be "yes," right? Even when your friend says it is the shoulder that took the bullet. Even when he says it weighs about seven pounds. Even when you've never butchered something that big before. Even when you've never cooked wild boar (though you have eaten it). It just has to be yes.

December 14, 2015

Soulagée, la France?

Les Champs Elysées vus de la grande roue place de la Concorde
Ce weekend, à Paris, la une de Marianne figurait dans tous les kiosks de presse de la capitale. Il paraît que la belle photo de Mme Le Pen dans les vêtements présidentielles a fait suffisamment peur aux français qu'ils ont voté pour "pas ça" lors du deuxième tour régional. 

December 8, 2015

Elections Part 1

The reaction to Sunday's first round of regional voting in Burgundy has not been terribly surprising. In the wake of record success for the Front National (FN, or National Front for English speakers), a few thoughts are on the tip of every tongue.

  1. "C'est un sanction." This mean, essentially, that the vote for the extreme right was more than anything a rebuke of the politicians already in power, namely the Socialists led by President Hollande, and those who have recently been there, namely former President Nicolas Sarkozy. (As an aside, it is wildly amusing to watch a former president actively campaign against the man who defeated him. With a nation of more than 60 million citizens united behind one single idea -- it's time for big changes in France -- it is hard to envision going back to a president you voted out of office. In U.S. terms, imagine George H.W. Bush running for president against President Clinton in 1996 or Jimmy Carter running against President Reagan in 1984. Defeated presidents generally don't get another shot in American political life, except for good ol' Grover.) One man said, "This vote is, more than anything else, a vote to emmerder [piss off; annoy] the politicians." 
  2. "It was predictable." There is unanimity that voters were moving more and more in the direction of the extreme right. This is stated as pure fact, devoid of emotion.
  3. "I'm still not sure the politicians got the message." Burgundians are pretty well convinced that politicians are a, well, less than honorable lot. They are also persuaded that this vote -- on the heels of many others that showed increased support for the FN -- did not really get the attention of the men and women in the other parties. They are probably right. I am not hearing a lot of "The people have spoken, and we need to listen to what they said and make sure that our priorities are their priorities." I am hearing a lot of debate and anguish about whether to fuse lists or join forces with other moderate parties to stop the FN. It feels like a knee-jerk, tone-deaf, save-my-political-skin reaction. Another voter told a reporter, "We're trying something we haven't tried yet. Every election it's the same thing: right and left fight, but everything stays the same."
  4. "The people who sat out the first round of voting will show up to vote the second round now that they've seen the results." Everyone has posited this idea with me. Is there any greater prayer than "the apathetic will finally motivate"? I am not holding my breath. If the farmer in my village, the winemaker in Gevrey-Chambertin, the baker in Beaune, or the restaurateur in Dijon sat out the first round of voting because they were either a) disgusted with politics (99% of the population) or b) preoccupied with their own lives and obligations, why on earth would a second round of voting motivate them to go to the polls? Maybe I am wrong, maybe not...we'll see. My bet is that absenteeism, which was 50% in the first round, will be right around 45% for the second round. (Five years ago, participation went up a few percentage points for the second round.) That could make a difference, but we'll see...
But make no mistake, people are nervous, unsettled, and a little bit scared by these results. Some are more subtle in their appraisals, some are more direct. The female mayor of one small town in Burgundy opened her window on Monday morning and yelled to the reporters gathered outside, "If you're here about the elections, my only reaction is, 'Merde, I'm ashamed!'" (Side note: I love that they print curse words in the newspaper here.)

She is far from alone. And reactions like hers are getting a lot of attention here. There are also a lot of people saying things like a woman in the local paper: "It's important to vote, but one needs to reflect ahead of time. You can't just vote for anyone." In the next breath, she says,  "If this doesn't work, we'll vote differently next time." Is she an FN voter? I cannot say, but she understands why people are voting that way. 

But how much longer can it be before we start seeing testimonials from people who voted FN and are proud to have done so? Because for now, outward support for the positions of the FN is still rare. When it becomes commonplace, I wonder about France's future.